Peace River School Division: flexibility and accessibility in alternative education

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Ensuring the success of all students in the Peace River School Division (PRSD): this is the goal of PRSD Alternative Education.

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“It’s a new perspective on how we can support students,” said Saxon Butte, district director overseeing the PRSD Virtual Education Program, Peace Home Learning Connection, Peace Regional Outreach Campus and High School Hutterite Colony. Programming for the school year 2021/2022.

Butte said plans began “towards the end of the last school year (in 2021), expanding the sites, bringing all the pieces together.” He added in an email that the goal is to remove barriers so that all students can get what they need and want, especially students who have struggled to be successful in schools. schools with traditional teaching methods.

“For those students who are traditional; it’s fantastic, ”said Butte. “However, there are students and families who, for various reasons, traditional education does not work – family dynamics, extenuating circumstances far beyond their control and that of their family, for example.”

PRSD Alternative Education serves approximately 600 students through a variety of sites and programs.

Neighborhood schools are included: Peace Regional Outreach Campus, Grades 10-12 (Peace River, Coordinator: Clyde Green) and Fairview and Area Learning Store, Grades 10-12 (Coordinator: Anildev Vasudevan).

In outreach schools, local students attend in person with as much or as little individual and small group instruction as necessary. Students who live further away can communicate with teachers by phone, email, Google Meet, and print media.

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Attendance is flexible, and individual timelines are set to accommodate student work schedules, family commitments, and other needs. Programming is asynchronous and relies heavily on printed material that students can complete quickly (over a matter of weeks for some courses) or over longer periods (over years, depending on individual life circumstances).

Other supports are available to help students in other areas of their lives, such as mental health and wellness.

Another part of alternative education to PRSD is the Virtual Education Program (VEP). The VEP for years 1 to 9 was established to ensure that the PRSD can support its families who have chosen to learn at home due to COVID.

“Covid – it was one of the main drivers of alternative education,” said Butte. “There are a lot of families for whom Covid is a concern, and they are not comfortable putting their children in school. “

Here, students learn at home and receive full days of teaching from centralized teachers in all subject areas and receive instruction through a combination of live, synchronous teaching and asynchronous activities.

Overall, Butte said, “The feedback has been very, very positive. Many families are very grateful that there is an online option.

The VEP, Grades 10-12, “was created to reinvent the way our schools supported each other through school-to-school video conferencing lessons,” said Butte. “A majority of these students are learning in their school buildings, with some choosing to learn entirely at home due to COVID. “

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In schools, students have access to synchronous live lessons that are delivered centrally by PRSD teachers. It ensures that all of PRSD’s Grades 10 to 12 students, even in its smallest schools, have access to the full range of high school programs. Note that it does not replace the programming already in place at PRSD schools, but ensures that its students have access to the courses they need to graduate or might want to take, such as calculus, physics and even editing. photo and video.

The VEP schedule offers all core high school courses and complements the in-person courses available in schools.

“Students in our smaller high schools take a combination of classes in person and through the VEP,” said Butte. “Students in our major high schools can take advantage of additional offers that may not be available in their schools when they need them. He added that VEP teachers visit individual schools as often as possible to meet students in person.

With Peace Home Learning Connection, there is a parent-led home education, where parents take responsibility for their child’s learning with the ongoing support of a PRSD home education facilitator, Golda David, a teacher. certified from Alberta. Another alternative is teacher-led home learning – a variety of programming options through, for example, the PRSD virtual education program.

There is the shared responsibility approach , a combination of parent-led and teacher-led programs where the parent takes responsibility for only part of the programming.

“Last year,” said Butte, “some students found learning at home a way to learn, to be in their comfort zone at home, without distractions.” On the other hand, he said, there were students who missed the interactions offered by the schools.

Whatever the scenario, Butte said, “We try to come up with as many alternatives to make sure the students finish their studies.”

Joanne McQuarrie / Postmedia Staff

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